Ted Cruz is brilliant but his strategy sucks

That said, I’d rather Ted Cruz serve as leader of the free world for eight years than have Donald Trump in that role for eight minutes. Yet the inevitable, bloody conflict between Cruz and Trump that broke to the surface after the last Republican debate raises real questions about Cruz’s political judgment that Republican voters need to examine.

In August of last year, I described Cruz’s behavior toward Trump as “feeding the alligator in hopes that it eats him last.” As painful as it is for his fans to admit it, there’s only one person to blame for the situation in which Cruz now finds himself and that’s Ted Cruz. For six months now, Cruz has played the role of eager understudy and Trump lickspittle, praising nearly everything that spews from Trump’s mouth. Not only did Cruz set a land-speed record racing off to Trump Tower to pay obeisance to The Donald early in the process, he has taken almost every opportunity to lavish praise on even Trump’s most ridiculous and politically deadly policies. He has embraced and amplified messages that are poisonous among women, Hispanics and even limited-government conservatives. Cruz has occasionally stepped back from the brink, but always while shoveling on fulsome praise for the notorious game-show host and con artist leading the Republican field.

Cruz made his bet, and his bed, early. He observed that Trump’s supporters were precisely like Obama’s 2008 fans: cultlike, fanatic, and instantly filled with white-hot rage at the slightest insult to The One. Cruz rarely said a harsh word about Trump, gambling that when the collapse came that he would inherit The Donald’s voters. Until his oblique and weak-kneed “Fonzie” and “New York values” snipes at Trump, Cruz could have easily been mistaken for a Trump surrogate, displaying the same obsequious bowing-and-scraping as Trump’s flying-monkey minions Dan Scavino, Michael Cohen, Roger “Number Two” Stone, and “Grifter Barbie” Katrina Pierson.

This isn’t the first time Cruz has displayed weak political judgment. It doesn’t matter what you think of the political and ideological fights he’s lost (and he’s lost almost all of them), he misread Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Barack Obama, and his colleagues in the U.S. Senate in the same way he misread Trump. When your political opponents have a gun to your head and can pull the trigger at any moment they choose, count on them to do so.